Two firefighters recently returned to Cape Coral after joining a fire department in Switzerland for a week to tape an episode of the Swiss reality television show, "Job Swap."
Last month, engineers Amanda Brashear and Mark Solich, of the Cape Coral Fire Department, were selected by the show's producers to temporarily switch places with two Swiss firefighters. They were chosen from a pool of 30 applicants - all personnel from the CCFD - to participate in the episode.
"Job Swap," produced by Constantin Entertainment, a German television-production company in Munich, focuses on the similarities and differences tied into doing the same job in different countries. The show has two major intentions - a job portrait and cultural exchange, according to officials.
Mark Solich and Amanda Brashear with their new Swiss gear.
PHOTO SPECIAL TO THE BREEZE
While Brashear and Solich were overseas, two Swiss firefighters joined the Cape department.
Brashear and Solich flew to Winterthur, Switzerland, on June 30 and returned on Sunday.
"We spent the whole week working side by side with all the firemen there and learning about the equipment they use and their strategies," Brashear said. "They're set up a lot like we are."
The Swiss also work 24 hours on and 48 hours off, but they do their job in lime green trucks.
"The strategies and techniques for the actual firefighting is almost the same," she said.
There were major differences between the equipment and fire stations.
"A lot of their equipment was automated," Solich said. "What we do takes multiple steps. Where what they do, it takes a push of a button."
"I think the glaring difference was the amount of stations," he added.
While the Cape department has 10 fire stations located throughout the city, the Swiss have only one facility. The Swiss's sole fire house is centrally located and serves a population of about 100,000.
Brashear compared the size of the station to a shopping center.
"It's massive," she said.
Thirty-five trucks operate out of the station, and response times can take up to 20 minutes.
"It seemed to be efficient for them, but it would never work over here because of our land mass," Brashear said.
The Swiss firefighters are not assigned to one fire truck like those in the Cape and the trucks have cranes in case, for example, a vehicle goes off a mountain. The Swiss also do not run medical calls.
"So, their call volume is way lower," she said.
In the Cape, 85 percent to 90 percent of the calls responded to are medical in nature. The Cape department reportedly handles approximately 20,000 medical calls for service annually.
While in Winterthur, Brashear and Solich lived in fire house with the Swiss crew. For the Fourth of July, the Swiss team put together a barbecue and fireworks to make the Americans feel at home.
"The most important thing that struck with us was their hospitality," Brashear said. "We were overwhelmed with how much they reached out to us and tried to make us feel comfortable."
Solich echoed that sentiment.
"That fire station is one of a kind," he said. "Even though we didn't speak the same language, you could tell they were happy to have us there and show us around."
Solich explained that he initially wanted to go to learn about the strategies and tactics used by the Swiss, but found himself more intrigued with the culture after getting into the swing of things.
"What their lives were like both in the fire station and out of it," he said.
For example, Solich worked with individuals over only a four-hour timeframe and they returned to the station with gifts for he, his wife and their 6-month-old son, as well as for Brashear and her family.
The fire chief and his wife even took them downtown to show them around.
"There's just so many things that they did that they didn't have to do," he said.
"They were just really awesome people," she said.
"My biggest thing that I was looking for was to see what the brotherhood was like in the fire department," Brashear added. "It's a big deal down here, we're like a family."
"The fire house over there is the same as over here, they're just speaking another language," she said.
Another surprise during their week overseas - a trip to the Swiss Alps.
"The sights were amazing. The Alps were breathtaking," Brashear said. "The scenery was absolutely beautiful. The weather was like a Florida winter."
Solich enjoyed seeing the snow at the top of the mountains.
"I've never seen snow in the beginning of July," he said. "So that experience alone with something very unique."
Asked about the filming of the show, neither were ready to tackle Hollywood just yet.
"The cameras were in our face 100 percent, the whole time," Brashear said. "That was definitely a huge change for me and Mark, but by the end of the week it was no big deal. We got used to them."
"Having the camera on me was more of a love-hate relationship," Solich laughed.
The Cape and Swiss firefighters also swapped mementos before saying goodbye. The Cape team presented the Swiss with the shield from a fire helmet, while the Swiss provided the Americans with one of their fire helmets. They also swapped fire patches and the Cape duo was given fire jackets.
Brashear said she would do it again in a heartbeat.
"I enjoyed every moment, and it's an experience I can't replace," she said.
Solich voiced the same - but without the cameras.
"I have no regrets," he said. "I think it was a great opportunity."
The episode is tentatively set to air in late October or early November.
Solich, 30, of Cape Coral, has been with the department for six years and is a Cape native. He is married to his wife, Riley, and the couple have a 6-month-old son, Noah.
Brashear, 29, of Punta Gorda, has been with the department for nine years. Born and raised in Port Charlotte, she is married to Toby, who is a Tice firefighter. The couple have a 3-year-old girl, Carter.
Constantin Entertainment handles TV programs in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
For more information, visit online at: www.constantinentertainment.com.